It's been a rough few weeks for the South Carolina Gamecocks. After going 6-0 to start the season, including a marquee win against Georgia, South Carolina lost twice in a row to LSU and Florida, both on the road.
It didn't hurt the Gamecocks' standing too much in the BCS—they're still ranked 13th. Still, going from title contender to fighting to get a marquee bowl game is tough.
That's why this game against Tennessee was so important. Win and get back on track. Lose and spiral out of control.
Things did not start well for the Gamecocks. After star running back Marcus Lattimore ran for 70 yards on 11 carries, he injured his right knee in gruesome fashion. He was carted off the field and it is possible he may miss the rest of the season
You could forgive the team if they struggled after. Lose a star player and it's hard to get amped up. Lose your best player and your chances of winning just shot down dramatically.
But this is a resilient South Carolina team. Quarterback Connor Shaw rushed for two touchdowns, shouldering some of the rushing load. He also threw a 24-yard strike to Ace Sanders.
The defense certainly had a bend-but-not-break component to it. They gave up 35 points, which is right around how much Tennessee scores in a game.
Still, they didn't let that get them down. They fought back, matching score for score, before pulling out the victory. Every time Tennessee inched closer, South Carolina had an answer.
No, South Carolina is no longer a contender for the national championship. Two losses disqualifies them. But this is a team that is quite good. They may not make a BCS bowl—there's at least three SEC teams ahead of them—but a major bowl is not out of reach.
This win gets the Gamecocks back on track. It stops what could have been a downward spiral out of the rankings, and could put them back in the top 10.
Losing Lattimore for what is most likely the rest of the season is devastating. No question about it. He's one of the best pure runners in college football. It will take a lot to overcome his absence.
That said, the Gamecocks showed a ton of resiliency by overcoming his absence today. If that is any indication, this win will turn their season around for the better.